Category Archives: Healthcare Reform

The Biggest Reason People Didn’t Sign Up For Obamacare

The top reason uninsured people didn’t enroll in coverage under Obamacare this year is they still don’t feel like they can afford health insurance, according to a new survey.

The findings in a report published by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Tuesday highlight the affordability gap facing some U.S. households, especially those with incomes near or above the income cutoff for tax credits that reduce premiums, or those who simply don’t believe health insurance is a good value.

Thirty-six percent of people without health coverage reported they looked for health insurance during the enrollment period that nominally ended March 31, but found the available plans too expensive, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation survey. Just 7 percent said they preferred to pay a tax penalty under the law’s individual mandate, rather than purchase an insurance policy. Others said they believed the mandate doesn’t apply to them, didn’t know about the mandate, or tried and failed to enroll.

obamacare affordable

Health insurance remains a costly product and the Affordable Care Act targets its financial assistance to low-income families. Tax credits to defray the cost of coveragearen’t available to households that earn more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $45,960 for a single person. The law also provides subsidies to reduce out-of-pocket costs for those who earn up to 250 percent of poverty, or $28,725 for an individual.

The tax credits provided under the Affordable Care Act are pegged to the price of the second-cheapest “silver” level plan in a person’s geographical area, and to household income. The subsidy gets smaller as income increases, so people who earn near 400 percent of poverty receive relatively little help paying for their coverage, and those who make just a little more pay full price.

The average national price for one of these benchmark silver plans is $808 a month for a household of two 40-year-olds with two minor children that earns over 400 percent of poverty, which is $94,200 for a family of four, according to a calculator on the Kaiser Family Foundation website. The same family making exactly 400 percent of poverty would be eligible for a tax credit worth $63 a month.

The vast majority of those enrolling in private insurance under Obamacare are getting help paying for their coverage. As of March 1, 83 percent of enrollees received tax credits for premiums, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Kaiser Family Foundation report includes quotations from some of those surveyed that illustrate the point of view that health insurance is too costly. “What’s out there now is just unaffordable,” one respondent said. “Because I think food on the table is more important,” wrote another. Coloring those views may be a general lack of awareness about the availability of the tax credits, previous surveys have shown.

Although not addressed in the Kaiser Family Foundation poll, the largest affordability gap in health coverage is found in 24 states that didn’t adopt the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid to more poor people after the Supreme Court made it optional for states. Those earning up to 133 percent of poverty, or $15,282 for a single person, were supposed to have access to Medicaid, while tax credits are reserved for those who earn at least poverty wages, which amounts to $11,490 for an individual. That meansthe poorest residents of those 24 states aren’t eligible for any help, so millions are expected to remain uninsured.

The Kaiser Foundation Family poll also shows a majority of Americans continue to disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, with 46 percent having an unfavorable view, compared with 38 percent holding a favorable opinion. These attitudes are closely tied to partisan affiliation, with Republicans being much more likely to disapprove and Democrats more likely to approve. A majority, however, wants Congress to improve the law, compared with more than one-third who would prefer it to be repealed and replaced with an alternative.

obamacare affordable

Despite President Barack Obama trumpeting the news this month that private insurance enrollments via the Obamacare exchanges have exceeded 8 million — or 1 million more than the highest projection from the Congressional Budget Office — the public doesn’t see it that way. Even though more than 40 percent were aware that signups had topped 8 million, nearly six out of 10 said enrollment came in below the federal government’s expectation.

obamacare affordable

Story by Jeffrey Young  at Huffington Post

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Small Business Health Care Tax Credit Applications Due by 12/23/13

On Nov. 27, 2013, HHS delayed online enrollment for FF-SHOPs until November 2014.  This means that small employers can enroll directly in SHOP coverage through agents, brokers or insurers. If you plan to claim the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, you’ll need to get an official eligibility determination from the SHOP Marketplace, which means submitting a SHOP application.  If you’re eligible, you’ll claim the tax credit when you submit your federal income tax returns for 2014. For SHOP coverage to begin on Jan. 1, 2014, HHS intends to extend the enrollment deadline to Dec. 23, 2013.

Here’s how to figure out if the company will qualify for a small business health care tax credit:

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To get started, you’ll need to complete a small business SHOP application and read the Frequently Asked Questions about SHOP.

To be eligible, you must:

•  Cover at least 50 percent of the cost of single (not family) health care coverage for each of your employees.

•  You must also have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs). You are probably wondering: what IS an FTE. Basically, two half-time workers (less than 30 hr/ wk) count as one FTE. That means 20 half-time employees are equivalent to 10 FTEs, which makes the number of FTEs 10, not 20.

•  Those employees must have average wages of less than $50,000 (as adjusted for inflation beginning in 2014) per year.

**Remember, you will have to purchase insurance through the SHOP Marketplace to be eligible for the credit for tax years 2014 and beyond.

How do you claim the credit?

You must use Form 8941, Credit for Small Employer Health Insurance Premiums, to calculate the credit. For detailed information on filling out this form, see the Instructions for Form 8941.

Your tax adviser / Certified Public Accountant (CPA) should be able to assist you with the preparation when the company is submitting the federal tax returns.

If you are a small business, include the amount as part of the general business credit on your income tax return.

 Also, the amount of the credit you receive works on a sliding scale. The smaller the business or charity, the bigger the credit. So if you have more than 10 FTEs or if the average wage is more than $25,000 (as adjusted for inflation beginning in 2014), the amount of the credit you receive will be less.

You will need an agent or broker to help you with your application to the SHOP. Please let us know how we can assist you.

Dana Rostro is the Director of Employee Benefits Sales and Operations at Texas Associates Insurors. Dana is ACA certified and has helped clients develop the best strategies for their operations within the new healthcare legislation.

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Transition Policies for Cancelled Healthcare Plans?

cancelled-greeceThe Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes key reforms that create new coverage standards for health insurance policies, beginning in 2014. For example, effective for 2014 plan years, the ACA imposes new modified community rating standards and requires individual and small group policies to cover a comprehensive set of benefits.

Over the last few months, millions of Americans have received notices informing them that that their health insurance plans are being canceled because they do not comply with the ACA’s reforms. President Obama has received criticism that these cancelations go against his assurances that if consumers have a plan that they like, they can keep it. Both Republican and Democrat members of Congress have been advocating changes to the ACA to resolve the cancelation issue.

Responding to pressure from consumers and Congress, on Nov. 14, 2013, President Obama announced a new transition policy for 2014. Under the new policy, individuals and small businesses whose coverage has been canceled (or would be canceled) because it does not meet the ACA’s standards may be able to re-enroll or stay on their coverage for an additional year.

However, this one-year reprieve may not be available to all consumers. Because the insurance market is primarily regulated at the state level, state governors or insurance commissioners will have to allow for the transition relief. Also, health insurance issuers are not required to follow the transition relief and renew plans, and have expressed concern that the change could disrupt the new risk pool under the federal and state Health Insurance Marketplaces.

Transition Relief Policy

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) outlined the transition policy in a letter to state insurance commissioners.

For 2014, health insurance issuers may choose to continue coverage that would otherwise be terminated or canceled due to the ACA’s reforms, and affected individuals and small business may choose to re-enroll in the coverage.

Under this transitional policy, health insurance coverage in the individual or small group market that is renewed for a policy year starting between Jan. 1, 2014, and Oct. 1, 2014 (and associated group health plans of small businesses), will not be considered to be out of compliance with specified ACA reforms if certain conditions are met.

According to HHS, it will consider the impact of the transition relief in assessing whether to extend it beyond the specified timeframe.

The transitional relief is not available to grandfathered plans because these plans are not subject to most of the ACA’s market reforms. According to President Obama, the transition relief is an extension of the grandfathered plan rules to additional health insurance policies.

Specified ACA Reforms

The specified ACA reforms subject to the transition relief are the following reforms that are scheduled to take effect for plan years starting on or after Jan. 1, 2014:

  • Modified community rating standards;
  • Guaranteed availability and renewability of coverage;
  • Prohibition of pre-existing condition exclusions or other discrimination based on health status, except with respect to group coverage;
  • Nondiscrimination in health care;
  • Coverage for clinical trial participants; and
  • Coverage of the essential health benefits package.

Requirements for Transition Relief

The transition relief only applies with respect to individuals and small businesses with coverage that was in effect on Oct. 1, 2013. It does not apply with respect to individuals and small businesses that obtain new coverage after Oct. 1, 2013. All new plans must comply with the full set of ACA reforms.

Also, the health insurance issuer must send a notice to all individuals and small businesses that received a cancelation or termination notice with respect to the coverage (or to all individuals and small businesses that would otherwise receive a cancelation or termination notice with respect to the coverage).

Notice Requirements

The notice to individuals and small businesses must provide the following information:

  • Any changes in the options that are available to them;
  • Which of the specified ACA reforms would not be reflected in any coverage that continues;
  • Their potential right to enroll in a qualified health plan offered through a Marketplace and possibly qualify for financial assistance;
  • How to access such coverage through a Marketplace; and
  • Their right to enroll in health insurance coverage outside of a Marketplace that complies with the specified market reforms.

Where individuals or small businesses have already received a cancelation or termination notice, the issuer must send this notice as soon as reasonably possible.

Where individuals or small business would otherwise receive a cancelation or termination notice, the issuer must send this notice by the time that it would otherwise send the cancelation or termination notice.

Dana Rostro is the Director of Employee Benefits Sales and Operations at Texas Associates Insurors. Dana is ACA certified and has helped clients develop the best strategies for their operations within the new healthcare legislation.

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The Unintended Consequences of the Affordable Care Act

For better or for worse, the Affordable Care Act is upon us. As more and more of its details get released and as businesses like yours start to make adjustments to deal with its requirements, some unintended consequences are arising. Here are some of the problems that businesses are dealing with or will soon have to deal with.

Avoiding Applicable Large Employer Status

Not every business is subject to the Affordable Care Act and its provisions. As written for 2014, it only applies to companies with an average of 50 full-time equivalent employees. Furthermore, it defines full-time as an employee that works an average of 30 hours per week. This is leading to two consequences as businesses attempt to skirt its requirements:

  1. Companies are cutting full-time employee hours back, turning them into part-time employees that aren’t counted towards the Affordable Care Act’s 50 employee threshold.
  2. Part-time workers are having their hours cut back to ensure that they stay under the 30 hour limit.

It’s not clear yet what the long term consequences are of these cut backs, but this certainly stands out as a trend to watch in the coming year.

Potential Premium Increases Due to Adverse Selection

The nature of the individual insurance provisions and mandates of the Affordable Care Act create an incentive for healthy people to stay uninsured. First, the penalty for being uninsured is in many cases much less than the cost of insurance. Second, the requirement that exchange plans accept anyone at any time means that an uninsured person would only need to sign up at the instant that they need care. This process leads to the phenomenon of adverse selection, which refers to when only people that are bad risks choose to be insured. Since insurers will have a higher proportion of claims to premiums from their private business, they may have to compensate for the additional expenditures by raising premiums on their employer clients who pay all of the time.

Changes in Family and Spousal Coverage

As a result of the costs of complying with the Affordable Care Act, many companies are dropping coverage for spouses. While this, in and of itself, was an unintended consequence, it brings up a second set of challenges. If you employ one of the newly-uninsured spouses, you could find them coming to you, asking to be added to your workplace plan, if you offer one. This could generate more expense for you as an employer to pay the cost of their coverage.

Cancellation of State Small Business Insurance Assistance

Some states offer special plans that help their citizens or small businesses either defray the cost of health insurance or provide a basic level of insurance. If these programs aren’t compatible with the Affordable Care Act’s provisions, they can be cancelled. One example of this is Tennessee’s CoverTN plan, whose $25,000 annual benefit cap made it a perfect adjunct for businesses that offer low-cost, high deductible plans. It will be cancelled effective January 1, 2014.

Given that insurance from the Affordable Care Act exchanges hasn’t come into effect yet and that the mandates that apply to individuals and employers also aren’t fully operational, the true impacts of the bill remain to be seen. As of now, many unintended consequences for business have already been identified but if history is any indicator, more may be coming down the line as the law’s implementation grows.

 

Dana Rostro is the Director of Employee Benefits Sales and Operations at Texas Associates Insurors. Dana is ACA certified and has helped clients develop the best strategies for their operations within the new healthcare legislation.

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Reinsurance Fees—Possible Exemption for Certain Self-insured Plans

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) creates a transitional reinsurance program to help stabilize premiums in the individual market for the first three years of Exchange operation (2014-2016) when individuals with higher-cost medical needs gain insurance coverage. The program imposes a fee on health insurance issuers and self-funded group health plans.

On Oct. 24, 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an advance copy of a final rule  under the ACA. In the final rule’s preamble, HHS states that it intends to issue a proposed rule that would make the following changes to the reinsurance program:

  • Exempt certain self-insured, self-administered plans from the reinsurance fees for 2015 and 2016; and
  • Modify the collection deadlines for the fees to reduce the upfront burden to plans and issuers.

Reinsurance Fees

Contributions to the reinsurance program are required for health plans (fully insured and self-insured) that provide major medical coverage. Certain types of plans are exempt from the requirement to pay reinsurance fees, such as health flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) that are integrated with major medical coverage, health savings accounts (HSAs) and coverage that consists solely of excepted benefits under HIPAA (for example, limited-scope dental and vision plans).

For insured health plans, the issuer of the health insurance policy is required to pay the reinsurance fees. For self-insured health plans, the plan sponsor is liable for paying the reinsurance fees, although a third-party administrator (TPA) or administrative-services only (ASO) contractor may be used to make the fee payment at the plan’s direction.

The reinsurance program’s fees are based on a national contribution rate. The reinsurance fee mainly consists of amounts collected to cover reinsurance payments and administrative costs, but it also includes funds that must be deposited into the general fund of the U.S. Treasury.

For 2014, the national contribution rate is $5.25 per month ($63 per year). The national contribution rates for 2015 and 2016 have not been established yet. The reinsurance fee is calculated by multiplying the number of covered lives (employees and their dependents) during the benefit year for all of the entity’s plans and coverage that must pay contributions, by the national contribution rate for the benefit year.

HHS has indicated that issuers and plan sponsors will be required to submit an annual enrollment count to HHS no later than Nov. 15 of 2014, 2015 and 2016 based on enrollment data from the first nine months of the year. Within 30 days of this submission or by Dec. 15, whichever is later, HHS will notify each issuer or plan sponsor of the amount of its required reinsurance contribution. The issuer or plan sponsor would be required to remit this amount to HHS within 30 days after the date of HHS’ notification.

Possible Changes

In the preamble to the final rule, HHS states that it intends to propose in future rulemaking to exempt certain self-insured, self-administered plans from the requirement to make reinsurance contributions for the 2015 and 2016 benefit years. At this point, it is not clear which self-insured plans will be covered by the proposed exemption. However, it appears that self-insured plans will be required to pay the reinsurance fees for the 2014 benefit year.

HHS also intends to issue a proposed rule that would change the collection method for the reinsurance fees. Under the revised collection method, the fees would be collected in two installments to reduce the upfront burden to plans and issuers. The fee for reinsurance payments and administrative expenses would be collected at the beginning of the year and the fee for payments to the U.S. Treasury would be collected at the end of the year. Under this payment schedule, a larger payment would be due in January 2015 and a smaller one would be due in December 2015 for the 2014 reinsurance fee.

These changes will not become effective until HHS issues additional guidance.

More Information

Contact your Texas Associates Insurors representative for more information on the ACA’s reinsurance fees.

 

 

Dana Rostro is the Director of Employee Benefits Sales and Operations at Texas Associates Insurors. Dana is ACA certified and has helped clients develop the best strategies for their operations within the new healthcare legislation.

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Small Employer Tax Credit Changes for 2014

The small employer tax credit was created in 2010 upon the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Next year, a few key aspects of the tax credit will change.

For 2014 and later taxable years, the maximum credit increases to 50 percent of premiums paid for taxable small employers and 35 percent of premiums paid for tax-exempt small employers. But those credit percentages are based on the average premium in the small group market in the rating area where employees sign up, instead of the specific premium chosen by employees.

Also beginning in 2014, the health care tax credit is only available to an employer for two consecutive taxable years, and cannot start before the 2014 taxable year. Finally, the new rules require employers to obtain group coverage through an Exchange to claim the credit.

Please contact Texas Associates Insurors for more information on the small employer tax credit.

 

 

Dana Rostro is the Director of Employee Benefits Sales and Operations at Texas Associates Insurors.

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New ACA Guidance on HRA’s, FSA’s, and Cafeteria Plans

On Sept. 13, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Labor (DOL) issued guidance on how certain Affordable Care Act (ACA) rules apply to health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and cafeteria plans.

Under the new guidance, a group health plan, including an HRA, used to purchase coverage on the individual market cannot be integrated with that individual market coverage for purposes of the ACA’s annual dollar limit or preventive services requirements. This means that an HRA will need to be integrated with another group health plan to satisfy these rules.

Health FSAs must be offered through a cafeteria plan to be exempt from the annual limit prohibition. Also, health FSAs must qualify as “excepted benefits” to meet the preventive services requirements.

Finally, beginning in 2014, premiums for individual coverage through an Exchange cannot be reimbursed or paid for under a cafeteria plan.

For cafeteria plans that do not operate on a calendar-year plan year (as of Sept. 13, 2013), this restriction will apply beginning with the 2014 plan year. However, individuals may not claim a premium tax credit for any month in which they are covered by an individual plan purchased through an Exchange as a benefit under a cafeteria plan.

The guidance applies for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014, but can be applied for all prior periods. For additional information, please consult the following resources:

 

Dana Rostro is the Director of Employee Benefits Sales and Operations at Texas Associates Insurors.

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5 Ways the Affordable Care Act Affects Small Businesses

Small Businesses have been cited by the White House as the ‘backbone’ of the United States Economy. That backbone of 28 million small employers saw dramatic changes  October 1, when the Health Insurance Exchanges opened, giving way to a new era of Health Care in the United States. So how exactly will the Affordable Care Act, which takes full effect on January 1, 2014 affect the ‘backbone’ of the US Economy? Here are 5 ways America’s small businesses will be affected by ‘Obamacare.’ health care benefits

Health Insurance

First and foremost, the Affordable Care Act provides for every single US citizen to purchase Health Insurance of some form or another come January 1, or else face hefty fines. This is the first step in what is expected to be a long, long road to nationwide coverage, along which businesses, big and small, will have a major role to play.

Come January, big businesses (50 employees or more) will be legally obliged to provide health insurance or pay a tax of $2,000 per employee (for all but the first 30 employees) starting January 2015. Smaller businesses (less than 50 employees) will also have to provide health insurance but will not be subject to fines, provided their employees get tax credits through an exchange. For small businesses with less than 25 employees, a tax credit of 35% will be made available to contribute towards health insurance provision.

Workplace Wellness

The Affordable Care Act will also create new incentives promoting workplace wellness programs, encouraging employers to take greater interest and more opportunities to support the health and well-being of employees. Funding will be provided as part of this preventative measure which has already been embraced by many businesses nationwide.

A study titled ‘Employee Benefits: Today and Beyond’ which surveyed US businesses found that: “almost half of employers (44%) are already increasing the use of wellness programs to improve the health of employees. Among these companies that have already implemented this approach, 33% have been very successful in achieving their desired cost savings.”

The Affordable Care Act will allow Businesses with workplace wellness programs, effective after 1, 2014, an tax credit increase of up to 20%, and a further 10% of the cost of health coverage if programs are designed to prevent or reduce tobacco use.

New Tax Credits

As mentioned above, one of the key factors in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is the introduction of new tax credits, designed to help make Health Insurance readily accessible to US citizens. This includes tax credits for Businesses, aimed at helping employers provide coverage for employees.

The small business tax credit, for example aims to help businesses with less than 50 employees afford the cost of healthcare coverage. The Affordable Care Act aims to raise this tax credit to 35% for by 2015 for businesses that purchase coverage through the SHOP marketplace which opens October,1.

SHOP Marketplaces

Those SHOP (Small Business Health Insurance Options Program) Marketplaces will offer Small Businesses a portal through which to shop for health coverage on a competitive marketplace. These marketplaces include web portals that provide standardized, easy-to-understand information, making comparing and purchasing coverage easier for businesses.

The new SHOP Marketplaces will also allow small groups to pool risks and reduce administrative complexity and subsequently increase their purchasing power while reducing costs.

Employer’s Mandate

All that said and done, the Employer’s Mandate has now been pushed back to 2015, so Businesses will not feel the full effects of the Affordable Care Act for at least another 18 months. Instead, the initial Health Care Reform procedure will be regarded as ‘real-world testing’ ahead of full implementation in 2015. This has caused an increased level of doubt among critics and supporters of how Health Care Reform will take full shape, if at all. Businesses are now in a state of concern thanks to mixed messages. While employers may have initially felt relieved that they would have more time to fully prepare for the introduction of the new legislation, President Obama has hinted that fines could swell for Companies that view the Employer Mandate delay as a let-off.

To conclude, this shroud of uncertainty should prompt employers to consult their Insurance Agents about the Affordable Care Act, its provisions and what it means for their business. The facts are there, it is now up to Businesses to assess the situation and consider what the best Insurance option for them instead of treating the Employer’s Mandate delay as a let-off.

If you are unsure of how the Affordable Care Act will affect your Business, or if you’re unsure of what to look for in the SHOP exchanges, speak to an expert directly for free.

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Impact of the Government Shutdown on Healthcare Reform

The U.S. Constitution requires Congress to pass a bill establishing a federal budget, often called a spending bill. For a spending bill to pass, the Senate and the House of Representatives must all agree upon the bill, which must then be approved by the President. When Congress is unable to agree upon a federal budget, or when the President vetoes it, before the budget cycle ends, a government shutdown occurs.

Due to Congress’ inability to reach an agreement on a spending bill, a government shutdown began on Oct. 1, 2013, following the end of the federal government’s fiscal year. Although the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed a spending bill that maintains spending levels, the bill does not provide funding to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Democratic-controlled Senate has refused to take up any bill that does not fully fund the ACA.

What happens during a government shutdown?

Similar to a lockout in the private sector, during a government shutdown, the government stops providing all “non-essential” services. This means that many government functions will stop, and many federal employees will be furloughed.

However, military personnel and essential employees will not be furloughed. In addition, other “essential” government functions and services will continue. These functions and services include:

  • Social Security, Medicare and certain types of veterans’ benefits;
  • National security, including the U.S. military and embassies;
  • Public safety, including air traffic control, emergency medical care, border patrol, federal prisons, most law enforcement, emergency and disaster assistance, overseeing the banking system, operating the power grid and guarding federal property;
  • All agencies with independent sources of funding, including the U.S. Postal Service and the Federal Reserve; and
  • Members of Congress, including essential Congressional staffers (but not those that are non-essential).

Which government agencies are affected?

Nearly all federal agencies will be affected by the government shutdown in some way. The Administration’s Office of Management and Budget has detailed contingency plans that describe each agency’s course of action.

The government estimates that roughly 800,000 federal workers will be furloughed as a result of the government shutdown.

Department of Health and Human Services

HHS said that a government shutdown could mean furloughing 40,512 workers, amounting to 52 percent of HHS employees.

However, the effect that the shutdown will have on each office will vary based on whether the service is essential. For example, those running the Suicide Prevention Lifeline would stay, but those in charge of investigating Medicare fraud would be furloughed. In addition, some parts of HHS will only be partially shut down.

Department of Labor

A majority of the DOL’s employees will be furloughed. About 13,350 employees will be furloughed, amounting to 82 percent of the DOL’s workforce.

Internal Revenue Service

Nearly 90 percent of the IRS’ workforce, or 86,200 workers, are expected to be furloughed. Although Social Security benefit payments, automated revenue collections and daily cash management for the federal government will continue, the IRS will stop performing key functions, including audits, examinations of returns, processing of paper returns and call-center operations for taxpayers with questions.

Certain essential employees, such as law enforcement, will not be furloughed, along with some positions that are paid for by funds outside of Congressional appropriations.

How does the government shutdown impact the ACA?

The government shutdown has very little, if any, impact on the health care reform law, despite efforts to defund the law. Because funding for the ACA was passed by Congress in 2010, the health insurance Exchanges still opened for enrollment on Oct. 1, 2013, and won’t be affected by the government shutdown.

Although the Exchanges are operational despite the government shutdown, technical difficulties may still occur due to a high volume of traffic. When attempting to access Exchange websites on Oct. 1, consumers experienced wait times, glitches and error messages indicating heavy Internet traffic.

IT contractors are currently working to fix the issues. However, the shutdown affects non-essential government workers, which may include some of the IT staff.

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Filling Your Employees in on Health Insurance Exchanges

Not only does the Affordable Care Act legislate for every US citizen to purchase Health Insurance of some form or another, it also obliges large and small businesses to provide their employees with Health Insurance. October 1 marks the opening of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) marketplace, which will give employers with 50 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees a program through which to purchase Health Insurance coverage.02F62387

Effective of October 1, employers are required to provide a notice to employees about the exchange including whether or not they may have access to subsidies if their employer does not offer affordable health care. With the countdown to Health Care Reform now fully underway, employers need to know how to inform their employees about the exchange and how it will affect them.

Focus on the exchange.

The one thing your staff will be most interested in knowing is how they are going to be covered and what they need to do to ensure they are covered. By first explaining that the exchanges are marketplaces where individuals and small employers can buy health insurance, you can give employees a comprehensive insight into what policies are available and what government subsidies will be available to them. Once you explain the ins and outs of the health insurance exchange to your employees, you can instruct them on how you will be providing coverage and what that coverage will include.

What else should you communicate?

As the Affordable Care Act is a quite complicated piece of legislation, it is vital that you don’t over-complicate things when explaining its provisions to your staff. Communicating too much information to employees can create unnecessary confusion and should be avoided. Instead, employers should focus on the present. Refrain from focusing on the long-term and hypothetical situations, as the Affordable Care Act may be subject to reform over the next 5 years.

The most important information to communicate to your employees is the fact that the Affordable Care Act will change many rules about health insurance in 2014. As of January 1, Insurance companies must accept everyone who applies for coverage, regardless of their condition of health. In addition, the law also requires that every individual must be covered or else they will be subject to a hefty fine, come January. By outlining the timeframe of the Affordable Care Act coming into effect, you can ensure your employees are aware of deadlines and fully prepared for them.

HOW should you communicate?

By planning for a consistent communication plan, you can cover how the Health Insurance Exchanges will affect employees in the near future, while accounting for long-term developments. In communicating with employees, it’s important to use all available resources to make information as accessible as possible.

The provisions of the Affordable Care Act can be difficult to throw your head around, but it’s crucially important for employers to get up to speed with how it will affect them and their employees come October 1 and beyond. By analysing the legislation and devising a straight-forward communications strategy, you can ensure your Business is ready when the SHOP exchanges open.

Struggling to throw your head around the Affordable Care Act? By contacting us directly, you can avail of FREE expert advice on how to prepare for Health Care Reform.

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